Wednesday, 31 December 2014

'Tis the Season...Three Pieces

 First Piece
‘It’s hard work being a pantomime prop,’ thought the two kidney beans, their three companions long since lost. ‘No-one appreciates the pressures you’re under as the stars of the show. The longeurs you have to endure between scenes, all the lapses into bored, becalmed quiet. We were expecting Jack and a Beanstalk,’ they mused, ‘but, confusingly, ended up with Red Riding Hood, carrying a knapsack bundle that clearly belongs to Dick Whittington!’

‘I thought it was free,’ said Red Riding Hood, ‘and as it was packed with bottles of mulled wine I decided a-wassailing we will go. Be of good cheer, you can come too.’ The old Christmas card read the riot act, demanding to come along as well. And Cheryl cut the cake so they’d have something to eat later.

The whole cast took off from the theatre roof, blazing pathways through the night sky. Only the old wishing well stayed behind, sulking and emanating an all-pervading smell of  damp and decay. The beans made a mental note to make friends with it later, against the day they needed a fresh start. Germination needed water - lots of it, and where better than a well that could make all their wishes come true?

The copyright of this post belongs to Clare Elstow 11/12/14

Second Piece

The disorganised confusion of the weather was offset by the charming, hopeful chaos within. As her new red boots took her towards the house, the young woman felt uplifting energy, a coracle of hopefulness floating her towards a settled resolution.
‘What if this was perfect?’ she thought, as the door swung open and sunshine appeared through the clouds, clearing away the wind and rain she’d battled so long.

‘Guess what’s in your stocking!’ said the bright apparition on the threshold. Was it an angel in disguise? Perhaps she thought, as she ran towards her mother, who was standing by the front door with its welcoming Christmas wreath.

The copyright of this post belongs to Clare Elstow 11/12/14

Third Piece
They could hear the boots marching down an empty street nearby. A relentless rhythm, transparent in its aggression. Utterly selfish, with no regard to the fears and lives of the occupied residents.

More sinned against than sinning, one family decide to retaliate. Absorbing the beat by osmosis, they do what they’ve always done at picnics by the riverside. A lone voice starts the song; a more highbrow member of the family adds a complex counterpoint, another a bass line. For a moment there is sweet harmony, a polyphonic heaven. Then joy is binned, happiness trimmed and the jackbooted beat predominates.

Everyone echoes the relentless beat, drumming on the floor, table, door – matching the aggression marching away. But one person fumbles again for melody, tries to ejaculate a burst of musical notes. The wistful sound of their harmonica drifts down the street, following the uncaring boots, blowing in the wind.

The copyright of this post belongs to Clare Elstow 20/11/14

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

All That We Wish Changed

It changed.
Yes, what changed, when?
What is 'it' and when did it change? Ponytail, aka Dr Whatshername, enunciates the words with frustration. I despair at my new ability; convoluted thoughts carouselling on the white noise in my brain. My thoughts are entropic, sliding into unmaking before they are made, before they are solid.

I stop gazing at the wall behind Ponytail. I look down at my knees, close my eyes and go hunting for what was 'It'. Come on Jo, you can do it I encourage myself, my own silent cheerleader. Go, Jo. Go...ahh, yes, It is, or should I say, She is Therese. It is all about her, isn't it? There 'it' is. There she is, Therese and her melting smile. I look up at Ponytail. She is waiting, impatience etches her face. Eyes like daggers and the thick rimmed glasses flimsy protection for me. If looks could change.
Yes - the room refocuses, settles around me again, white walls, metal chairs and table, recording device, straightjacket, all where they should be. Yes, I speak up, it changed, it all changes when Therese disappears.
Yes (is Ponytail obtuse or obfuscating?), disappeared, went missing.
How went missing?
(Jeez, she is dumb or I am, if I knew that, if I'd known that I wouldn't be here, would I? I want to shout. I don't, but I do shout for I am suddenly full of the blessing of Therese, can see her gentle, mocking eyes, her hands reaching for me) You SEE, It was a kind of reunion.
Reunion? Ponytail's voice is skeptical.
Well, I had not seen her for two weeks
Not long really, she maintains her tone
(Not long, not long, how dare she, it seemed like an age)
No, I guess not, I reply, becalmed.
But the thought of us being together lightened my load, that week.
(Yes, load. Load, you dumb bitch. Her snide interjections are exasperating me)
Yes, things had changed at work and not in a good way.

I remember Jean's gallic shrug when we returned to our desks after Anna's peptalk that Friday. I'd just checked my email for the confirmation. Sure enough, it was there, a little red flag next to the subject line indicating its utmost priority. Must be accepted. Must be read. 'Naught may endure but mutability Jo' quoted Jean, standing next to me, holding up my coffee mug in sympathy. I remember thinking that that was a bit rich, coming from someone who was a permanent member of staff. I remember wanting to take the mug and throw the hot liquid over him.

How, not in a good way?
I'd lost my job. I scowl at her. Ponytail ignores that.
So, Therese had been away.
Yes, in La Rochelle
Ponytail nods, hair swinging. And was coming back to Paris that day?
Yes, Friday.
The day you lost your job?
YES, I am shouting again, but that didn't matter, nothing, no other change mattered when I received her voicemail. You, YOU don't know.

I remember the voicemail. After I'd restrained myself from burning Jean with coffee, I'd sat back on my chair. I had a few hours to clear my desk but no inclination. I seemed to be floating on the
chair, in it but not. Light headed, disembodied, I was brought back to reality when my phone started vibrating across the desk. Click, electronic voice - you have one new message, press 2 to listen. Click. And then, her honeyed tones, and my heart is in the receiver.
'Ca va Jo? Listen I return to Paris tonight and I must see you. I have been thinking, thinking and making a decision. Meet me at the usual place, 6.30. Okay? I'll tell you all then. J't'aime cherie.' Her voice tilted with the endearment and, click, was gone.

You don't know what she is like!
Tell me, Ponytail is calm, mollifying with her hands.
She is the wind at your back, filling your sails with the beauty of promise, of change.
That word again?
Yes, but in the best, the most wonderful of ways.
So, you were excited at the prospect of seeing her again?
Err, yes! (She is dumb)

My face is hot with an image of Therese. The morning sun across rumpled bed sheets, framing her in sleep, highlighting an expression of contentment that ached my heart.

But that Friday?
All that we wish to stay?
Tempts and then flies, I finish the wounding quote.
She did not arrive at your rendezvous.
My flush fades, Therese's image has flown away. The room is at once cold.
No, I whisper.

Copyright 2014 Gabrielle Goldsmith

In the Grey

The harbour is empty in the grey of missing you.

Where are you Therese, I scream at the gulls, circling above me, above the cob. Last time I stood here, I stood with you. And we kissed. And we kissed the kiss of forever. Where are you? The birds, moving with a purpose on the wind, cry and caw in response. They consume my feelings, the wind takes my tears.

Changed futures, chanced futures. I had a chance of something new, something better. I don't want this future, I shout in silence, I'd give up all my possessions, my hopes, all I've promised others, my freedom for another moment. For another moment with you and the peace of mind....
'Your drink, Madam!' The waiter, dances it, chances it around my table, plonking the glass down and interrupting my lament. A leopard does not change its spots. The cliche leaks through my tired brain, as I look into his smarmy expression. 'Merci,' I reply, thinking I'd give him a piece of my mind though it might be murderous.

I don't. Instead, I search the faces of the passers-by. Search them for you. Nothing. Search them as I have done for days, hands to work, hearts to God, furiously searching and asking. Nothing. As one day has cheerfully undone the work of the last, I have uncovered...nothing. I have acquired a shadow. Plain dark suit but local gendarmie, no doubt. He sits a few tables away. He follows me discreetly. He has not said hello yet. It is a matter of time I suppose, perhaps he will give me another day before the police haul me in.

It is day three here trying to find you, to discover any sign of what has happened. Day thirty three since you did not return to Paris when you said you would. At night, alone in the room we shared, curled up tight on the bed, my dreams are addled by unfulfilled desire and wanton fear. I bumble around like a drunk staggering through painted bar doors, attempting to slake her thirst. Is she behind this blue one? No. Perhaps the red door? No!

Last night, I prayed to all the Gods before sleep. 'I promise to be good, to be better, next birthday, next funeral, next wedding, if only you'd give me a sign' repeating the prayer as long as the cold floorboards would allow. I woke with the watery dawn, no sign and my mouth dry. Chance would be a fine thing.

Now, at the quayside, the prayer haunts me. Wedding! I am playing constantly with the ring. Your ring Therese. Working a groove into my finger. Into my soul. Wedding?, I whisper to the cold sky, already running from the low sun. This change has undone me. A fairy child is inking malevolence around my heart. You were my one chance to stay the darkness. Without you Therese, I know it will overcome me.

The waiter brings me cold coffee, with added disdain. I lap it up.

In my pocket, chafing, a small box, circular imprint in empty velvet.

Copyright 2014 Gabrielle Goldsmith

Harbour Voir

Harbour voir

The harbour at La Rochelle, was my favourite spot,
A smarmy waiter did not detract,
A small box, Therese's hiding place.

The harbour stood the force of wind and rain,
A smarmy waiter took our orders, as we huddled,
A small box, upturned in Therese's palm.

The harbour, setting sun on watery diamonds,
A smarmy waiter brought a tray of pernod,
A small box, golden promise nestled inside.

The harbour at twilight, we walked arm in arm.
A smarmy waiter watched, framed by cafe window,
A small box in my pocket.

The harbour, dark on the cob, we held hands,
A smarmy waiter, liquorice stick in quayside lights,
A small box, circular imprint in empty velvet.

The harbour, an upturned boat, you kissed me deeply.
A smarmy waiter, echo voice disdaining,
A small box, crushed in embrace, not needed,
Ring that will never leave my finger.

The harbour now, empty in the grey of missing you.

Copyright 2014 Gabrielle Goldsmith

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Ashputel there is no need to sit among the cinders.
Grey dust comes when magic goes,
stealing joy away from the sacred place of laughter.
Silently it gathers in the extremities,
burrowing in, piling up on forgotten shelves
Beginning early, smouldering your days.

He came to lift you away,
lacing your fingers into his
together for the winding.
You open the door to his words.
Oh beautiful wordsmith!
Was it but the imprint of an illusion
Which breezed through your mind
Scattering the dust, allowing you choices?

The copyright of this post belongs to Moira Cormack

The Priest

The Priest

He had promised himself he would change, that the chasuble would restrain him, but as soon as he saw Miss Wilcox in his congregation, he had serious doubts. He had put so much hope in his new vocation, one he truly believed in, despite his inclinations. He was well aware that for him it had to be all or nothing. He would either need to be celibate or he would try to seduce every woman he met. If he allowed himself even one little bite, he would need to finish all the cake, no matter what. When he was training, he had envisaged himself as a priest as curmudgeonly, too devoted to even notice women as men are expected to. He now realised that this was too idealistic.

Since his move here he had done admirably, he had been here nearly a year and even the glittering Mrs Jenkins with her hand job red nails and probing hands, hadn’t tempted him enough. He hadn’t even allowed himself to fantasise about her, though occasionally the thought of her as a geisha flashed into his mind. Each time he would rush to his desk to write, or re-write his sermon.

He had been lucky that as far as he knew (and he was confident that he would) his reputation from Eggington hadn’t followed him at all. That had been his first job since qualifying and he had started badly. His housekeeper had been disappointingly pert and eager, and he had unintentionally make it his mission to bed her as soon as, and as often as, possible. It had escalated from there. Whenever a parishioner had come to see him on her own, he had made a subtle pass at her to assess her receptiveness, and if he saw potential there, he would proceed to pursue them with gentle, patient determination. Out of respect for his housekeeper, he had made sure none of the encounters were in his house, let along his bed. And out of respect for his vocation, none had been inside the church. Instead, they had been in their homes, their gardens, in the churchyard, anywhere really. One particular grave stone in the churchyard was at the perfect height and was now wobbly from so much use.

He had been surprised that he had managed to get away with it for so long, but finally the husbands became suspicious and he had been called to see the archdeacon. His indiscretions were never referred to directly, instead phrases like “a change will do you good” and “it could change everything if….” were floated around, like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Then the usual comment that priests should be “unexpected, foreign, feared and revered”. He hung his head in genuine shame and vowed to always remember that he was accepted through kindness. In that moment he had really meant it.

But now she was sat in front of him and he felt upside down, inside out, left footed. If he hadn’t known the words so well, he might have faltered. She looked up at him with doeful eyes, filled with admiration for a priest; but he could read the hiding passion in them. Despite her long skirt and buttoned up blouse, he could sense that she could be truly dirty if she wanted to. An image of her on her knees giving him a blow job made him nearly forget the words. It had felt incredibly real; he could almost feel her tongue on him still. And when she had finished he would ask her to “take off those mucky clothes” and do things with her that would definitely get him excommunicated. The change would do him good.

The copyright of this post belongs to Jenni Romero

Friday, 5 December 2014

Ranunculus for Holly

Ranunculus, glorious colourful flowers, blooming in the cottage garden of my soul. Shimmering and lustrous in the gentle heat of late Spring sunshine. Filling the air with reminiscent scents and lungfuls of happiness.
Dancing children, chanting in rings of joy, waving daisies, delphiniums and tulips in time to the sweetest breeze. Little Aunties dancing with golden ranunculus. Maypoles replete with beribboned satin streamers, Morris men jingling their bells on a soft Sunday morning.
Cottages thatched with straw haircuts, warm stones on churchyard walls. Honest rain pittering off warm orange pantiles, lush grassy meadows exuberant with woolly sheep. Gently rippling brooks arguing with mossy stones on their way downstream.

England, my England, at your very best, you can compete with the hot and exotic on your own terms.

The copyright of this post belongs to CH